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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Tewkesbury Borough Council Offices, Severn Room

Contact: Democratic Services Tel: 01684 272021  Email:  democraticservices@tewkesbury.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

18.

Announcements

When the continuous alarm sounds you must evacuate the building by the nearest available fire exit. Members and visitors should proceed to the visitors’ car park at the front of the building and await further instructions (during office hours staff should proceed to their usual assembly point; outside of office hours proceed to the visitors’ car park). Please do not re-enter the building unless instructed to do so.

 

In the event of a fire any person with a disability should be assisted in leaving the building.  

Minutes:

18.1          The evacuation procedure, as noted on the Agenda, was advised to those present.

18.2          The Chair indicated that, in accordance with Procedure Rule 1.2 of the Council’s Constitution, he had used his discretion to vary the order of business so Item 11 – Corporate Risk Register would be taken after Item 5 – Audit and Governance Committee Work Programme and would be followed by Item 9 – Management Assurance Statement 2020/21 and Item 10 – Annual Governance Statement.

19.

Declarations of Interest

Pursuant to the adoption by the Council on 26 June 2012 of the Tewkesbury Borough Council Code of Conduct, effective from 1 July 2012, as set out in Minute No. CL.34, Members are invited to declare any interest they may have in the business set out on the Agenda to which the approved Code applies.

Minutes:

19.1          The Committee’s attention was drawn to the Tewkesbury Borough Code of Conduct which was adopted by the Council on 26 June 2012 and took effect from 1 July 2012. 

19.2          There were no declarations of interest made on this occasion.

20.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 110 KB

To approve the Minutes of the meeting held on 21 July 2021.

Minutes:

20.1          The Minutes of the meeting held on 21 July 2021, copies of which had been circulated, were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair. 

21.

Audit and Governance Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 81 KB

To consider the Audit and Governance Committee Work Programme.  

Minutes:

21.1          Attention was drawn to the Audit and Governance Committee Work Programme, circulated at Pages No. 13-20, which Members were asked to consider.

21.2          The Head of Corporate Services advised that a member of staff had now returned to the Internal Audit team, having been redeployed to assist with administering business grants during the pandemic, and their first task would be to review the suite of outstanding audit recommendations to determine which had been implemented and, of those that had not, if they were still relevant and what new feasible implementation dates would be.  A report would be brought to the next meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee on 15 December 2021.

21.3          It was

RESOLVED          That the Audit and Governance Committee Work Programme be NOTED.

22.

Corporate Risk Register pdf icon PDF 72 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

22.1          The report of the Head of Corporate Services, circulated at Pages No. 167-189, asked Members to consider the risks contained within the corporate risk register and assurance that the risks were being effectively managed.

22.2          Members were reminded that the corporate risk register was a high-level tool which helped management to consider what the corporate risks were and how they were being managed and it was brought to each meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee.  The key updates arising since the register was last presented to the Committee were set out at Pages No. 169-170, Paragraph 3.1 of the report.  It was noted that Reference 7. Waste Service, related to the risk around the effectiveness of the waste contract, was recommended for removal on the basis that the contract was now well-managed on the whole.  It would continue to be monitored by the Head of Community Services and could be brought back if anything significant was to occur in future.  Two key risks had been added to the register, the first of which was Reference 17. National Driver Shortage – this had been well-documented in the media and had the potential to impact upon waste collection rounds.  Regular discussions were taking place with Ubico which had strategies in place to mitigate the risk and two new drivers had recently been appointed which was positive news.  Nevertheless, drivers were being lost to the private sector which would inevitably have an impact on the Council’s waste service if it continued.  The second new risk was Reference 18. Waste Transfer Station which had been included to reflect the fact that Wingmoor Farm was the subject of a planning variation which was being determined by Gloucestershire County Council and, if refused, would prevent Tewkesbury Borough Council from taking waste to that site.  The only alternative in that situation would be to direct deliver waste to Javelin Park which would require considerable changes to waste collection rounds and would incur significant costs. 

22.3          In response to a query about possible alternative waste transfer stations, the Head of Community Services advised that there were no appropriate sites within a logical geographical area.  A Member questioned how likely it was that the planning variation would be refused and the Head of Community Services indicated that Tewkesbury Borough Council had been consulted on the proposal as a statutory consultee and its Planning Committee had objected to the proposal when it had considered the application in August.  A Member noted from the report that representation had been made to Gloucestershire County Council and she asked what had been said and how that related to the decision made by Tewkesbury Borough Council’s Planning Committee.  In response, the Head of Community Services explained that Officers from Tewkesbury Borough Council and Cheltenham Borough Council – which would also be impacted - had written to Gloucestershire County Council and Tewkesbury Borough Council’s Planning Committees setting out their position but, unfortunately, Tewkesbury Borough Council’s Planning Committee had taken a different view.  It  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.

23.

Management Assurance Statement 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 90 KB

To consider the management assurance statements provided by each service area and the conclusion that, overall, for 2020/21 the management of the Council’s internal control environment was satisfactory.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

23.1          Attention was drawn to the report of the Head of Corporate Services, circulated at Pages No. 120-148, which provided management assurance statements for each service area.  Members were asked to consider the statements and the conclusion that, overall, for 2020/21, the management of the Council’s internal control environment was satisfactory.

23.2          The Head of Corporate Services reminded Members that, as part of the Council’s response to COVID-19, the Internal Audit team had been redeployed to the business cell for the whole of 2020/21 to support the administration of business grants.  As reported at the last Committee meeting, due to all internal audit work being suspended for the year, no independent assurance could be given on the adequacy of the Council’s internal control environment.  In order to mitigate this, management assurance statements had been produced by each service area which also provided assurance that, despite resources generally being directed to the Council’s COVID-19 response, this had not detrimentally affected the internal control environment.  Each Head of Service had been required to fill out a statement which captured the key elements of the Council’s governance and internal control framework.  The statements did not offer full assurance that everything was effective all of the time but that, generally, management arrangements had been satisfactory over the year.  The Corporate Governance Group had reviewed the statements and concluded that they were a fair reflection of the position.  Whilst some of the questions had been given a partial response, that was not unexpected as the Council had a complex array of systems, processes and procedures so it would be unrealistic to expect them to operate 100% effectively all of the time.  The statements were attached as appendices to the report and the overall conclusion was that a satisfactory system of internal control had been maintained.  The areas of exception – the review of the licensing service and recovery of the internal audit function - had been identified as Significant Governance Issues within the Annual Governance Statement.

23.3          A Member queried whether the licensing service was now sufficiently staffed and the Head of Community Services explained that a member of staff had been seconded from Cheltenham Borough Council for two days per week until the end of December at which time an experienced Licensing Officer from another authority would take up a full-time role.

23.4           A Member noted that the external auditor’s findings report made reference to the annual audit report not being ready until December and she asked if there was any indication as to the opinion that would be issued at that time.  In response, the representative from Grant Thornton explained that this was the first year of the revised approach to the audit of value for money as introduced by the National Audit Office.  In recognition of the challenges COVID-19 had brought to local authorities as a whole, and given the importance of getting the baseline assessment year right, additional flexibility had been given to postpone the completion of work on arrangements to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.

24.

Annual Governance Statement 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 107 KB

To approve the Annual Governance Statement 2020/21. 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

24.1           The report of the Corporate Governance Group, circulated at Pages No. 149-166, attached, at Appendix 1, the Council’s Annual Governance Statement 2020/21 which Members were asked to approve.

24.2          The Head of Corporate Services explained that the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 - now amended by the Accounts and Audit (Coronavirus) (amendment) Regulations 2020 - required local authorities to conduct a review, at least once a year, of the effectiveness of its systems of internal control and include a statement reporting on the review with any published Statement of Accounts.  The Annual Governance Statement should normally be approved at the same time as, and certainly no later than, the Statement of Accounts.  The review was undertaken by the Corporate Governance Group.  The draft Annual Governance Statement for 2020/21 was attached at Appendix 1 to the report and identified six Significant Governance Issues that required improvement, set out in the table at Page No. 164.  The first three issues had been carried over from the previous Annual Governance Statement: Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) governance arrangements; Local Code of Corporate Governance; and administration of discretionary housing payments.  The three new issues identified were: effective recovery of the internal audit function; implementation of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) Financial Code; and Licensing Service review.  Progress against implementing the proposed actions would be monitored by the Audit and Governance Committee.

24.3          A Member asked for further clarification on the issue with CIL and the current position as he was under the impression that it was completely out of the Council’s control.  The Head of Corporate Services indicated that he did not know the detail; however, he understood there was due to be a Member seminar in relation to planning and he suggested that CIL could form part of that.  The Head of Democratic Services clarified that a seminar on the Joint Core Strategy and the Tewkesbury Borough Plan was in the process of being arranged and, whilst CIL was not part of that, she undertook to speak to the Head of Development Services about providing an update for Members on the current position.  The Member indicated that residents saw that the local authority was receiving CIL money and therefore expected that assets would be forthcoming; however, he did not think that was the reality of the situation and he would like a better understanding of how it worked.

24.4          It was

RESOLVED          That the Annual Governance Statement 2020/21 be APPROVED.

25.

External Auditor's Findings pdf icon PDF 8 MB

To consider the external auditor’s findings 2020/21. 

Minutes:

25.1          Attention was drawn to the external auditor’s findings report, circulated separately, which Members were asked to consider.

25.2          The representative from Grant Thornton advised that the external auditors had two key responsibilities: the Council’s financial statements and issuing an opinion on the 2020/21 accounts; and value for money.  A considerable part of the report before Members focused on the findings of the audit.  In terms of the overall headlines, based on the work completed, Grant Thornton was proposing to issue an unqualified audit opinion i.e. a ‘clean’ opinion.  It was important to highlight that an Emphasis of Matter paragraph would be included – this was used to draw attention to something of significance within the accounts; in this instance, it related to the valuation of assets.  The Council had commissioned an external valuer to undertake valuations and the report as at 31 March 2021 had highlighted a material uncertainty.  A valuer used the market to identify similar sales and market data in order to assist with valuations and, in this case, the information supporting the valuation of the Council’s car parks was not reliable enough so there would be specific reference to that uncertainty within the audit opinion.  In terms of value for money, this had been covered under the previous Agenda Item in relation to the management assurance statements and Grant Thornton would be starting work on that over the coming months after the accounts audit had concluded.  Whilst adjustments had been identified, the representative from Grant Thornton wished to put on record her appreciation to the Finance Manager and her team for their continued support over the course of the audit process.

25.3          Moving on to the detail of the report, Members were informed that the materiality thresholds, set out at Page No. 6 of the report, would be familiar from the audit plan and had not been changed.  Anything above the triviality threshold of £37,000 was reported as an issue.  Pages No. 7-10 of the report outlined the details of the significant risks identified within the audit.  Specific attention was drawn to the risks at Pages No. 9-10 of the report which related to the material uncertainty regarding the valuation of the car parks and the valuation of the pension fund.  Members were advised that the car parks had not been used for a significant amount of time during the year due to the pandemic, therefore, there was no real data to create an estimate as would be the case in a normal year.  In terms of the pension fund net liability, Grant Thornton relied on assurances from the Gloucestershire Pension Fund Audit Team in relation to that and was awaiting receipt of assurance from the Pension Fund Auditor – these were expected in the coming weeks and were required before the audit was finalised.  Page No. 11 of the report set out new issues and risks identified this year and a major change for the Finance Manager and her team was the administering and financial  ...  view the full minutes text for item 25.

26.

Letter of Representation 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 55 KB

To approve the S151 Officer’s Letter of Representation on the closure of the accounts for the year ended 31 March 2021. 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

26.1          Attention was drawn to the Section 151 Officer’s Letter of Representation on the financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2021, which had been circulated at Pages No. 21-28.  Members were asked to approve the letter.

26.2          The Head of Finance and Asset Management advised that, as Section 151 Officer, he was required to write a Letter of Representation to the external auditors which formally and publicly confirmed the accuracy and completeness of the presented Statement of Accounts.  The letter outlined the principles on which the accounts were based and confirmed compliance with the law and the level of information provided to Grant Thornton to complete the audit.  A copy of the draft letter for 2020/21 was attached at Appendix A to the report and the Committee was asked to approve it for signature by the Chief Finance Officer, on behalf of the Council, in order for the external auditor to formally issue an opinion on the financial statements.

26.3          Accordingly, it was

RESOLVED          That the Letter of Representation be APPROVED and signed by the Section 151 Officer.

27.

Statement of Accounts 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 165 KB

To approve the Statement of Accounts 2020/21. 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

27.1          Attention was drawn to the report of the Finance Manager, circulated at Pages No. 29-119, which attached the Statement of Accounts for 2020/21 showing the financial position of the Council as at 31 March 2021 as well as performance during the year.  Members were asked to approve the Statement of Accounts and to delegate authority to the Head of Finance and Asset Management, in consultation with the Chair of the Audit and Governance Committee, to amend the approved Statement of Accounts to reflect advice from the external auditor as appropriate.

27.2          The Finance Manager drew attention to Page No. 32 of the report which summarised the financial position of the Council as at 31 March 2021.  She indicated that Members had gone through the accounts in detail during a training session prior to the Committee meeting but she would be happy to answer any further questions.  Several Members expressed the view that the accounts were very difficult to understand and the Chair suggested that it would be helpful to have a summary document to assist Members.  The Finance Manager recognised that the accounts were not designed for the layperson and she undertook to consider how best to provide the appropriate level of information without being confusing.

27.3          Upon being put to the vote, it was

RESOLVED           1.That the Statement of Accounts for 2020/21 be APPROVED.

2.That authority be delegated to the Head of Finance and Asset Management, in consultation with the Chair of the Audit and Governance Committee, to amend the approved Statement of Accounts to reflect advice from the external auditor as appropriate.